Meet Harry Gaines: Guest blogger, retiree, and avid exerciser

Scott Pullen of dotFIT here. I have been fortunate in my fitness career in that I have done a lot of travel all over the US. I visit gyms, fitness centers, personal training studios…the whole spectrum of health and fitness. I have in my 15 years doing this met easily tens of thousands of fitness fans, advocates, zealots and those representing every stripe, color and specialty of sport, fitness and health interests. Not long ago, I was a guest at a gorgeous community fitness center in Florida. Honestly, I think I found where I want to retire. While there working with the training staff, I was given the opportunity to present to interested members in an informal lunch time setting. Thirty or so active and vibrant mature club members showed up to learn and ask questions about health, nutrition and exercise. There was a lot of participation and questions and a great time was had by all, especially me.

During a brief break, a fellow by the name of Harry Gaines approached me and gave me an earful of his frustration with his peers and their lack of vigorous exercise, often fueled by a belief that they were too old to work out with intensity. Worse still, he saw some of the trainers give into this misplaced belief that their mature clients could not exert themselves. I could identify with this frustration. I have often taught never to judge a client based upon age or size, as I have been wowed countless times by clients that were in their 70s or considerably overweight. Harry shared with me his own training schedule, and honestly, he’d whoop my butt.

So impressed with Harry was I that I thought he would make a great contributor to the dotFIT blog. He has agreed to share his wisdom, philosophy and personality (probably the best part) in a series of blogs. So without further ado, I present to you Mr Harry Gaines:

Recently I was asked by the director of the fitness center in my Florida community to attend a seminar on fitness and nutrition.  She brought in the speaker, Scott Pullen from dotFIT, an exercise and nutrition company based in Westlake Village, CA, to train her trainers.  The seminar for interested residents was a bonus.

Scott was entertaining, interesting and educational, three of my hot buttons.  We talked during a break about proper strength training, something I see few residents doing. That led to his asking me to consider writing a column for dotFIT’s website on some regular basis.  So here’s the first pass.

I live in SW Florida, five months a year, Bucks County, PA the rest.  This combination allows me to exercise outdoors year-round.  I’ve been into exercise for at least forty years in various sports and at varying intensity levels.  There have been a few lapses due to high levels of work and lots of travel, but I’ve always returned.  Singles tennis, running, cycling, swimming laps, golf (walking and carrying where allowed) and strength training; all have had their turn.

I have not worked full time since 1995, but continued as chairman of the board of a small public company until late 2000.  Since then I’ve enjoyed being a mentor and coach to several people whose careers are flourishing.  The rest of the time is free.

My current passions are cycling, strength training (including general fitness) and golf, in that order.  Cycling is Sunday, Wednesday and Friday AM with a small group of serious cyclists; strength training and fitness Tuesday and Thursday AM; golf Monday and Saturday.  I will devote a column to golf, my addiction for too many years, later.  So many seniors are hooked on golf – and golf alone – that it deserves special treatment.

When people ask me how long I’ve been retired I say, “I stopped full-time work in 1995 but still have a part-time job.”  They, of course, ask what it is.  I respond, “Taking care of myself.  I work ten hours or a bit more per week doing stuff that will keep me fit through my eighties. Cycling gets seven hours, strength three; golf doesn’t count.”  (Actually, golf counts in Bucks County, where I can walk and carry my bag; that’s exercise.)  As long as I show up for my part-time job I will be healthy and happy.

At seventy two I weigh the same as forty years ago, am a stronger cyclist than five years ago and am working out with weights comparable to ones used fifteen years ago.  All because I’ve been showing up regularly for my part-time job.  And, guess what:  The job is fun!  I can’t wait to get on my bike three days a week or go to the gym two.  Golf is fun also, particularly now that I’ve learned not to measure my self-worth based upon the day’s game.

Five years ago we had two serious cyclists; now we have up to seven, including a man in his sixties who’s done five Hawaii Ironmans, the latest in 2009.  We’ve increased our average speed from about seventeen mph to a high of nineteen and a half recently, a huge jump for a bunch of old farts.  Several of us do intervals – more about that later – and, as a result, are stronger and faster.  We cycle forty to sixty miles three times a week, will do a century ride in early April where we’ll average about sixteen mph.

A few years ago I required a steroid shot in my left knee every six months, like clockwork, in order to walk.  Some problem with arthritis or a shortfall of cartilage.  We’ve increased our cycling speed and distance each year and, as a result, the knee is fine; no pain in three years!

All it takes is commitment.  Show up. There are two times when I should exercise – when I feel like it and when I don’t.  Nike’s slogan is right on. I look forward to sharing some specifics with you in future columns.

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